Summer position breakdown: offensive line

There’s no question this offensive line is loaded with talent. Is this year that the Gators’ big guys put all the pieces together?

Previously previewing:

Quarterbacks | Running backs | Wide receivers

Today, our position breakdowns continue with a look at Florida’s offensive line:

The left tackle: Martez Ivey

Ivey is a freak athlete, and puts that athleticism to good use at the left tackle position. With a high football IQ and an explosive first step off the snap, Ivey has earned high grades for his protection of the QB’s blind side throughout his three years at Florida. Going into his fourth year as a starter, Ivey is a lock for one of the two tackle positions, and a safe bet to start at left tackle. It’s never easy to project the All-American offensive linemen, but I would not be surprised if he makes that list. Look for him in the first round of next year’s NFL Draft.

The left guard: Tyler Jordan

Jordan is the most versatile of Florida’s five lineman and among the most vocal. That makes him both an excellent leader in the locker room and on the field. Like Ivey, Jordan is going into his fourth year as a starter, and also like Ivey, Jordan possesses an exceptional knowledge of the game. Unlike Ivey, however, Jordan is equally strong at all five positions on the line, making him John Hevesy’s Swiss Army knife of the unit. Look for him to get some snaps at any position where the starter gets hurt and the next best offensive lineman is a stronger option at left guard than where the injury takes place. He was always a pretty strong guy, but now under Nick Savage, he’s grown even bigger and stronger than ever. All-SEC recognition is a real possibility, and though his NFL Draft stock isn’t quite as high as Ivey’s, his ability to play all five positions equally well will make some team very happy.

The center: Brett Heggie

Heggie has battled both knee and toe injuries that have kept him off the field for almost a full calendar year now, but assuming he’s healthy, he’s the obvious choice to start at center. The time gap between when he snaps the ball and attacks his defender at the line of scrimmage is virtually nonexistent, and he’s another intelligent human being who puts that IQ to use on the offensive line. If he’s able to go by the time the serious games roll around- and I’m positive he will be if he doesn’t further injure himself- pencil him in as the starting center.

The right guard: Fred Johnson

Johnson has taken a beating from the fan base for missing blocks in pass protection assignments early in his career, but all indications out of summer camp are that he’s improved immensely and is ready for a breakout senior season. He, like everybody else on this team, has bulked up under the tutelage of Nick Savage, and has seemed to quickly grasp the new, faster paced offense Dan Mullen is going to run. Watch for Johnson to put it all together in his fourth and final season in Gainesville and have an All-SEC year.

The right tackle: Jawaan Taylor

Taylor is another monster athlete at right tackle. Perhaps he doesn’t have quite the upside Ivey does, but he’s still quick off the snap and strong enough to pancake anybody who comes in too high. He plays with great pad level, awareness and quickness, and he’s likely to take over Ivey’s left tackle position in 2019… if he himself doesn’t leave early and declare for the NFL Draft.

The dark horse: TJ McCoy

McCoy is going to be difficult to keep off the field, even if he doesn’t have a starting role. And if Heggie isn’t ready to go at the start of the year, McCoy could take the starting center role and hold onto it. He’s been getting a battle from Nick Buchanan this offseason for the offensive line’s “sixth Man,” if you will, but I expect him to be the first backup called upon to fill in if one is needed.

And don’t forget about: Nick Buchanan, Chris Bleich, Kavaris Harkless, TJ Moore, Stone Forsythe, Noah Banks.

Projection: Florida has three seniors, a junior and an experienced sophomore in what I’ve projected to be its starting lineup. That equates to 112 starts between them. That’s unheard of for an offensive line. What’s really scary is that none of them have really reached their potential yet, other than possibly Taylor. These are five extremely talented and experienced offensive linemen who stand to benefit more than any other position from the offseason program led by Nick Savage, and that’s all you can ask for. This is a good unit as it stands right now; if it reaches its potential, it could be one of the nation’s best.

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